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Two GOP Drug War Critics Seek Presidency

Two prominent Republican anti-prohibitionists are seeking the nod to head the party's ticket in the 2012 presidential election. Last week, former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson formally threw his hat in the ring with a tweet and a speech in New Hampshire, and this week, Rep. Ron Paul (TX) announced he was forming an exploratory committee for the 2012 campaign, with a final decision to come next month.

Former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson wants to legalize marijuana. (image via Wikimedia.org)
Both men are libertarian-leaning, anti-interventionist, fiscal conservatives who will compete to gain the support of some of the same elements of the Republican base. Both have long records of speaking out against drug prohibition. They are up against a Republican field that has so far thrown up few strong front runners, and early primary victories could catapult them to the front of the field.

Johnson was in typical form last week, telling ABC News what he was all about. "I support gay unions. I think the government ought to get out of the marriage business. And then for me as governor of New Mexico, everything was a cost-benefit analysis. There weren't any sacred cows -- everything was a cost-benefit analysis. What are we spending money on and what are we getting for the money that we're spending? So in that sense, the drug war is absolutely a failure."

Drug reform as an issue is prominently displayed on Johnson's campaign home page, and his drug reform page is worth noting. "Despite our best efforts at enforcement, education and interdiction, people continue to use and abuse illegal drugs," the page says. "The parallels between drug policy today and Prohibition in the 1920's are obvious, as are the lessons our nation learned. Prohibition was repealed because it made matters worse. Today, no one is trying to sell our kids bathtub gin in the schoolyard and micro-breweries aren't protecting their turf with machine guns. It's time to apply that thinking to marijuana. By making it a legal, regulated product, availability can be restricted, under-age use curtailed, enforcement/court/incarceration costs reduced, and the profit removed from a massive underground and criminal economy.

"By managing marijuana like alcohol and tobacco -- regulating, taxing and enforcing its lawful use -- America will be better off," the issue page continues. "The billions saved on marijuana interdiction, along with the billions captured as legal revenue, can be redirected against the individuals committing real crimes against society. Harder drugs should not be legalized, but their use should be dealt with as a health issue -- not a criminal justice issue."

The issues page uses large-font type to ensure that readers understand that he wants to "make marijuana legal" and embraces a harm reduction approach to harder drugs.

Johnson has embraced drug reform since at least 1999, after cruising to victory to serve a second term as New Mexico governor in 1998. That stance made him one of the earliest high ranking officials in the US to call for pot legalization and a harm reduction approach to other drugs. He retired from New Mexico politics after being term-limited out of office after his second term.

Johnson, who is a relative unknown among the Republican field, is counting on a strong showing in New Hampshire, home of the nation's first primary, to boost his candidacy. "I have to do, and want to do, really well in New Hampshire," he said on the steps of the statehouse in Concord as he announced his candidacy. "So I'm going to spend a lot of time in New Hampshire, where you can go from obscurity to prominence overnight with a good showing."

Drug war foe Ron Paul hopes the third time is the charm (house.gov)
Veteran Texas congressman Ron Paul, for his part, announced Tuesday that he has formed a presidential exploratory committee for the 2012 nomination. If he runs, that would mark his third presidential campaign. He ran as a Libertarian in 1988 and as a Republican in 2008. In the latter campaign, he generated a core of devoted followers, but dropped out in June after averaging less than 10% of the vote in early primaries.

But Paul supporters said their candidate could do better this year. They cited the name recognition from his 2008 run and the rise of the Tea Party, where Paul's fiscally conservative and constitutionalist views, if not always his views toward drug and foreign policy, should find a warm welcome.

Paul has long been a critic of the war on drugs, has supported bills in Congress to decriminalize marijuana and hemp, and takes a states' rights approach to drug policy. He is also strongly anti-interventionist, but unlike many libertarians, opposes abortion.

While both men are long-shots in the Republican nomination process, the state of the field leaves the door open to one or both of them. A recent CBS News/New York Times poll found that 56% of Republicans were not enthusiastic about any of a long list of declared and potential candidates. (Johnson and Paul weren't listed in that poll).

And then there were two anti-prohibitionist presidential candidates -- in the Republican Party, no less. Maybe there will finally be a serious discussion of drug policy in the 2012 campaign, even if only in the primaries.

(This article was published by StoptheDrugWar.org's lobbying arm, the Drug Reform Coordination Network, which also shares the cost of maintaining this web site. DRCNet Foundation takes no positions on candidates for public office, in compliance with section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, and does not pay for reporting that could be interpreted or misinterpreted as doing so.)

Tommy Chong Lights Up Canadian New Democratic Party Campaign

Location: 
BC
Canada
Other contenders for B.C.'s NDP leadership race might be making campaign promises and rolling out platforms, but candidate and pot activist Dana Larsen is bringing out actor and comedian Tommy Chong. The celebrity marijuana user — one half of the former movie duo Cheech and Chong — has publicly endorsed Larsen for the leadership.
Publication/Source: 
CBC Radio-Canda (Canada)
URL: 
http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/story/2011/03/07/bc-larsen-ndp-tommy-chong.html

Washington State Drug Reformer Roger Goodman to Run for US Congress

Washington state Rep. Roger Goodman (D) has announced that he is seeking the Democratic Party nomination to challenge US Rep. Dave Reichert (R), a two-term congressman who represents Washington's 8th congressional district. Although he doesn't emphasize it heavily on his campaign web pages, Goodman is a champion of drug policy reform.

http://stopthedrugwar.org/files/rogergoodman.jpg
Roger Goodman
His reform record is long and impressive. An attorney, Goodman served as the executive director of the Washington State Sentencing Guidelines Commission in the late 1990s and was elected to the National Association of Sentencing Commissions. While with the state commission, he published major reports on prison capacity and sentencing policy, helped to increase availability of drug treatment in prisons, and shepherded 14 other sentencing-related bills through the legislature.

Goodman followed up the sentencing stint by leading the King County Bar Association's Drug Policy Project, which coordinated a groundbreaking initiative to take a critical look at drug laws and promote cheaper, more effective, and more humane drug policies. In doing so, he helped create an impressive coalition of over 20 professional and civic organizations that has spurred the legislature to reduce imprisonment of drug offenders and shift funding into drug treatment.

A state representative since 2006, Goodman is cosponsor of a marijuana legalization bill currently before the legislature, and is supporting a pending medical marijuana dispensary bill. Last session, he helped push through a 911 Good Samaritan drug overdose prevention bill, and is seeking similar legislation to help prevent alcohol overdoses. He continues to work for sentencing reform in the legislature as well.

While Goodman is aiming at the 8th congressional district, that could change because of redistricting. He told the Chronicle he could end up in one of three different districts, but said he was confident he could win in any of them.

(This article was published by StoptheDrugWar.org's lobbying arm, the Drug Reform Coordination Network, which also shares the cost of maintaining this web site. DRCNet Foundation takes no positions on candidates for public office, in compliance with section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, and does not pay for reporting that could be interpreted or misinterpreted as doing so.)

Kirkland, WA
United States

Gary Johnson's Medical Marijuana Use: Why it Matters

When I first saw the headline yesterday that former New Mexico Governor and Republican presidential hopeful Gary Johnson had smoked marijuana as recently as 2008, I admit I rolled my eyes. Would his strong pro-reform message be maligned as the predictable position of a pothead-for-president? My concern changed to excitement when I read that he'd used marijuana for pain relief following a horrific paragliding accident:

“Rather than using painkillers, which I have used on occasion before, I did smoke pot, as a result of having broken my back, blowing out both of my knees, breaking ribs, really taking about three years to recover,” Johnson says. He explains that painkillers had once caused him to suffer nasty side effects and the pain of withdrawing from the pills was unbearable. So, Johnson says, in 2005 "someone" who cared for him gave him marijuana to deal with the pain. [Weekly Standard]
 

The distinction is significant given that leading candidates in the Republican primaries have a rich and hideous history of defending the arrest of medical marijuana patients. McCain, Romney, and Giuliani all took heat during the New Hampshire primaries after viral videos captured their callous positions on medical marijuana. If bad press didn’t teach them a lesson, maybe Gary Johnson will.

Obama's meek support for medical marijuana has been anything but a political liability, earning criticism only from those who'd like to see a more formal federal withdrawal from the war on patients and providers. But that could change when Republicans hit the campaign trail looking for ammunition. Candidates will surely face the question of whether they'd continue Obama's policy of restraint with regards to federal prosecutions in medical marijuana states, and if contradicting state's rights and public opinion were uncomfortable positions for leading Republican candidates before, imagine how they'll feel with an actual patient on stage beside them with a microphone of his own.

Johnson's medical use creates a unique opportunity to bring personal experience into the discussion and powerfully expose the cruelty and ignorance of any opponent who dares to defend arresting sick people. This could play out any number of ways, but if I were Mitt Romney or Tim Pawlenty, I'd already be worrying about how to handle the situation. When it comes to medical marijuana, Gary Johnson will enter the debate with the American people on his side, and he has everything to gain by going on the offensive early and often.

(This article was published by StoptheDrugWar.org's lobbying arm, the Drug Reform Coordination Network, which also shares the cost of maintaining this web site. DRCNet Foundation takes no positions on candidates for public office, in compliance with section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, and does not pay for reporting that could be interpreted or misinterpreted as doing so.)

Group Calls on Elected Officials in Texas to Stop Taking Alcohol Money Until Marijuana Is Legalized (Press Release)

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: December 2, 2010

CONTACT:  Craig Johnson, 469-733-6769, safertexas@protectyouth.org

DALLAS, TX Dec. 2, 2010 -- With Texas politicians collecting a significant percentage of their campaign contributions from the alcohol industry after the November election, the Safer Texas Campaign (a project of ProtectYouth.org) is renewing its call on elected representatives to stop accepting such money until Texas passes legislation allowing the regulated use and sale of marijuana as a safer alternative to alcohol.

According to campaign records provided by the nonpartisan, nonprofit FollowtheMoney.org, the five Texas politicians who have received the largest contributions from the alcohol industry are Governor Rick Perry, U.S. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, Lt. Governor David Dewhurst, Texas House Speaker Joe Straus, and Attorney General Greg Abbott, all have so far received a total of $1.4 million during the 2010 election cycle.

Governor Rick Perry and the Texas State Legislature passed House Bill 1199 in 2003, a bill that made it significantly easier for alcohol industry groups to pass sales initiatives in "dry" cities.  Despite the tremendous social and economic cost of alcohol use on families and communities, the legislation received no opposition from law enforcement or substance abuse prevention organizations.

Since HB 1199 took effect, the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission reports at least 391 local alcohol sales initiatives have passed statewide (compared to only 71 initiatives approved by voters during the eight years prior to HB 1199), and the number of "dry" counties has dropped from 51 to 26.

Studies show that alcohol use contributes to aggressive and risk-taking behavior potentially leading to acts of violence, whereas marijuana use does not.  The US Department of Justice's National Crime Victimization Survey reported that two-thirds of victims who suffered violence by an intimate (a current or former spouse, boyfriend, or girlfriend) reported that alcohol had been a factor and that drinking is a factor in 75 percent of domestic violence incidents involving spouses.  A Harvard School of Public Health study reported in 2004 that 72 percent of college rapes nationwide occurred when the female was too intoxicated by alcohol to resist/consent. 

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the number of alcohol poisoning deaths in the United States is shockingly high, consistently between 300 and 400 each year; whereas, there are no records of deaths from marijuana poisonings. 

The recent California effort towards legitimate regulation of the marijuana market, Proposition 19 (also known as the Regulate, Control & Tax Cannabis Act), was opposed by the state's largest alcohol industry group, California Beer & Beverage Distributors.

The Safer Texas Campaign states that it is not anti-alcohol, nor does it advocate the use of marijuana.  "Our campaign works to address increasing public safety concerns that our state laws prohibiting the marijuana market are sending a dangerous message to the public that alcohol is more acceptable than marijuana," said Craig Johnson, coordinator of the Safer Texas Campaign.  "Every objective study on alcohol and marijuana has shown marijuana is a much safer substance than alcohol to both the user and to society, so our legislators should not be driving more Texans to drink by prohibiting the safer alternative of marijuana."

More info online at http://www.SaferTexas.org

Location: 
TX
United States

GOP Presidential Hopeful Johnson Wants Pot Legalized

Gary E. Johnson, a former New Mexico governor and marijuana legalization advocate, is putting out Florida feelers in a possible bid for the presidency in 2012. Johnson's reasons for wanting to legalize marijuana: It's is less harmful than alcohol and the cost of locking up pot smokers exacts too much of a toll on civil liberties and on taxpayers. "I don't drink. I don't smoke pot. But I've drank and I've smoked pot...The big difference between the two is that marijuana is a lot safer than alcohol," said Johnson, an accomplished tri-athlete who once scaled Mount Everest.
Publication/Source: 
Miami Herald (FL)
URL: 
http://www.miamiherald.com/2010/12/02/1952903/presidential-hopeful-legalize.html

Medical Marijuana Foe Concedes in CA AG Race

Los Angeles County prosecutor Steve Cooley has conceded victory to San Francisco County prosecutor Kamala Harris in the race for California attorney general. Cooley had led on election day, but Harris moved ahead during the late vote count and, according to California secretary of state's office, now leads 46.0% to 45.5%. Although the results are not yet official, Harris leads by 54,000 votes with only a few tens of thousands left to count.

California's next attorney general, Kamala Harris (Wikimedia)
Cooley was strongly opposed by medical marijuana supporters because of his record as LA county prosecutor. He condoned dozens of SWAT-style raids on dispensaries, collaborated with the DEA, aggressively prosecuted patients and providers, and argued that any medical marijuana sales by dispensaries were illegal. He was backed by the California Narcotics Officers Association, which has called for the "eradication" of dispensaries.

Harris, on the other hand, has consistently supported the state medical marijuana laws. As San Francisco prosecutor, she also oversaw one of the first dispensary regulation ordinances in the country.

"A defeat for Steve Cooley is a tremendous victory for patients," said Steph Sherer, executive director of Americans for Safe Access. "Not only will we have an ally in Kamala Harris to be able to advance civil rights protections for patients, but we have also shown that medical marijuana advocates are a powerful political force. This race shows that medical marijuana patients cannot be marginalized without a political consequence," Sherer concluded.

CA
United States

Election 2010: Races Still Undecided and Odds and Ends

It ain't over 'til it's over, and in a trio of races of interest to drug reformers, it ain't over. There are also a handful of other races of interest that we haven't mentioned yet. Here's a post-election roundup:

In California, in a race critical to the state's medical marijuana industry that is still close to call, Republican attorney general candidate Steve Cooley Saturday retook the lead from Democratic candidate Kamala Harris. Cooley is a determined foe of the existing dispensary system and has said he believes any dispensary sales of marijuana are illegal. As of Thursday morning (11/11), with only some absentee and provisional ballots still to be counted, Cooley has 45.9% of the vote to Harris's 45.7%. The Greens got 2.6% of the vote, the Libertarians got 2.5% of the vote, and the Peace and Freedom Party got 1.6% of the vote. As of this writing, Harris trails by about 22,000 votes.

In Arizona, in a race that is still too close to call, the medical marijuana initiative, Proposition 203, trails by slightly more than 5,000 votes out of 1.5 million cast, but with fewer than 130,000 mail-in and provisional votes yet to be counted. As of Wednesday night, Prop 203 trails with 49.9% of the vote, compared to 50.1% opposed. 

In Washington state, drug reformer and incumbent state Rep. Roger Goodman is leading narrowly in a race that probably won't be called until December 2, the last day for the secretary of state to certify election results. Goodman, the head of the Voluntary Committee of Lawyers, a national organization affiliated with the King County Bar Association Drug Policy Project that Goodman founded, leads challenger Kevin Haistings by a margin of 51.2 to 48.8%.

Only 60% of the votes were counted election night, and Goodman was down by 500 votes then. Since then, the percentage counted is up to 91%, and Goodman has pulled ahead by more than 1,200 votes. For Haistings to pull it out, the late vote trend would have to dramatically reverse.

Also in Washington state, a drug law reforming candidate for Snohomish County prosecuting attorney, Jim Kenny, failed in his bid to win office. Kenney got only 30.03% of the vote, compared to 68.76% for his opponent, Mark Roe. Both ran as Democrats.

In Florida, drug reformer Jodi James was defeated in her bid to be elected state representative in District 31. Running as a Democrat, James got 37.81% of the vote, while Republican candidate John Tobia won with 62.19%.

In New York, Rockefeller drug law reformer Eric Schneiderman was elected attorney general. He won 54.9% of the vote, beating Republican candidate Dan Donovan, who had 43.7%. Also in New York, anti-prohibitionist candidates Randy Credico and Kirsten Davis picked up 0.6% and 0.5% respectively in their races for US senator and New York governor.

In Vermont, pro-marijuana decriminalization Democrat Peter Shumlin eked out a narrow victory over Republican Brian Dubie. Shumlin got 49.24% of the vote to Dubie's 47.46%.

Late Mail-In Ballots Favor Medical Marijuana Turnaround in Arizona (Update: Or Possibly Not)

[Update: Prop 203's numbers have dropped back down again after further counting of late ballots.]

Drug policy reformers were all but reconciled late Tuesday night to a zero-out-of-four year for statewide marijuana initiatives. Along with a moral victory but electoral defeat for California's Proposition 19 legalization measure, medical marijuana initiatives lost decisively in South Dakota and Oregon, and a medical initiative in Arizona, Proposition 203, was down by the frustratingly slim margin of 50.3%-49.7%, with most precincts reporting. Prop 203's support rose to 49.74% later in the night when the remaining precincts were reported.

Lily Rose, cancer survivor and Prop 203 proponent
As an email from Prop 203's main funder, the Marijuana Policy Project, pointed out Wednesday afternoon, though precinct reports had been completed, 290,000 late mail-in ballots (mailed at the last minute or dropped off in their mail-in envelopes at the polls Tuesday) remained to be counted, as did 84,000 provisional ballots (accepted at the polls but with the voters' eligibility in question), according to a press release from the Arizona Secretary of State's office. MPP pointed out that a 52%-48% split in favor of Prop 203 among those late-counted ballots would make up the roughly 7,000 vote difference between the yes and no vote counts.

The question then for Prop 203 partisans was whether those late mail-in and provisional voters are representative of the state as a whole (e.g., the equivalent of a random sample of Arizona voters, in which case one would expect the same statewide split on the initiative), or whether they differ demographically from the state as a whole, in ways that affect that split. A late Thursday afternoon update on the Secretary of State's web site suggests good news for the measure on that front, with an improved 49.86% voting yes on 203, 65,718 additional votes having lowered the vote difference to 3,870. Assuming those votes were mail-ins or provisionals, not additional precinct reports, Prop 203 at that rate could reach 50.4% or even 50.5%.

Observers have speculated that Republican voters may have disproportionately voted early by mail, due to the higher level of motivation prevailing among conservatives this year. More Democrats, by contrast, may have put off voting but responded at the last minute, prompted by get-out-the-vote efforts or the deadline. If so, that would bode well for Prop 203 -- as well as for candidates favored by reformers, such as California Attorney General candidate Kamala Harris, slightly leading arch-opponent of medical marijuana Steve Cooley; or Washington State Rep. reelection candidate Roger Goodman, slightly behind Police Sgt. Kevin Haistings but also closing the gap.

Provisional Arizona voters have until Tuesday, November 9, to bring qualifying identification to their county election offices. Click here for further information of qualifying ID types, or call (602) 542-8683 or (877) THE-VOTE for further information, or (602) 255-8683 for TDD for the hearing impaired.

AZ
United States

Some Good News from New York

Some good news from New York: State Senator Eric Schneiderman, legislative leader of the partially successful effort to repeal the state's draconian Rockefeller Drug Laws, has cruised to a solid victory in the race for New York Attorney General.

Andrew Cuomo, the Governor-Elect, was extremely active in the Rockefeller repeal campaign for several years, though he didn't do much if anything about it as AG, and during the campaign he opposed medical marijuana. Still, that doesn't mean he'll actively oppose it as governor, and having Cuomo and Schneiderman as governor and attorney general seems like it should be helpful.

Location: 
NY
United States

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